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Solar Flares and Old Cars?

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  • edited May 2009
    Or you could shower like they do in africa when the power goes out (which FYI is everyother day) Bucket shower.
  • edited May 2009
    Yes, like in movie Australia...although I would have preferred Nicole Kidman in the scene. In colder climes I suppose a method to warm that H20 a bit first would be nice. Australia and Africa...both quite warm.
  • edited May 2009
    The effects of EMP from solar flares and atomic explosions on electric/electronic machines may be of interest; but, there are some effects which are stranger than conjecture. Here is a short paper of the effects of EMF on people: http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/emf-war.html
  • edited May 2009
    too true too true. Most of the buildings in Ghana where I lived are open air style (because the coldest it ever got in 11 months was like 15 C) In the building where I was living one Nigerian girls asked me how do we take showers in Canada?? I said how do you mean? She said, that it would be too cold to go from the showers to your room in the negative -35C whether.

    I told her that we don't tend to live in open air buildings. Could you imagine that?? I think I would die in that case.
  • Large solar flares occur frequently. The Aurora Borealis (sp?) is actually a storm of ionized particles from solar flares discharging in the ionosphere, whoch protects us from the effects of the flares.

    While satillite communications can be interfered with from large solar flares, automobiles cannot.
  • edited May 2009
    As I understand it solar flares can damage electronics. In fact some flares in the recent past have damaged some of our and other nations satellites. Those in "the know" suppose to be able to verdict when any increase of solar flare activity may occur. They have expressed concerns that if we were subject to a massive series of flares it could "fry" electronics in most everything. AM radios are very susceptible to flare activity. Remember years ago we would hear nothing but static when there was a lot of flare activity. For the younger group, AM was the only radio years ago. 50 years before the iPod.
  • edited May 2009
    Unless it's a large enough flare to push through the atmosphere?
  • edited May 2009
    You know that is REALLY interesting. I have always noticed that at night, as the sun wanes, AM station reception gets really crappy. Although you can also pick up stations from...like..Hobokan and Calgary! What the hell is up with that?
  • edited May 2009
    This happens to be vaguely in my area of expertise so here goes... sorry about the long post!

    So, first off, if you look at a relief map of Idaho, you'll notice the Lower Snake River plain in the south which looks basically like a giant line running from the Owyhee area of SW Idaho/SE Oregon/NW Nevada all the way to present day Yellowstone. The valley is almost exactly as big as the caldera in Yellowstone so it is obviously the hotspot track. The whole track is filled with much later basalt lava flows (such as those at Craters of the Moon) but these are only a few thousand years old (CotM could erupt picturesque Hawaii-style lava any day!) and their exact relationship with the Yellowstone hot spot isn't quite clear. But by mapping minor variations in the local gravity and by analyzing the pressure waves of small earthquakes, they've been able to see through this material and they've found a series of calderas roughly the same size as the current Yellowstone one.

    The ash flows from these can also be found on the margins of the Snake River Plain and these can be radiometrically dated. The oldest one, which is the one right about at the ID/OR/NV border, is about 17 million years old. This is the same date as the columbia basin flood basalts, which are the very thick basalts that cover most of eastern Washington and which also erupted from basically the same spot. These are almost certainly related, though how exactly is unclear. But this is probably the date and location of the first eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano so it never really had anything to do with anything further west, like the Cascades.

    The rest of the calderas get younger as they move to the east towards present day Yellowstone. The rate and direction of these corresponds with other measurements of the rate and direction of movement of the North American plate so it has usually been claimed that the hot spot is stationary and the plate has been moving over it. (this is now the subject of a somewhat complicated controversy, but I can explain it and some of the possible origins of the hot spot if anyone's interested).

    The scary part of this is that the calderas are dated at an average of 600,000 year intervals and the last one was almost exactly 600,000 years ago. Granted, the variation from this interval is larger than the span of human civilization, but it is "due" and it's just as likely to go off now as any other time and it's 100% certain to go off in the next few thousand years.

    As for the effects, the people who say "don't have to worry, I never go there" are missing the point. The earlier eruptions have left tephras (the result of extremely hot debris clouds that run off the volcano) in about a 100 mile radius, so anything in that area would likely be dead, although there should be ample warning and time to evacuate this area. The extremely thick ashfall might kill some, since the practicalities of evacuating the area affected by these will be much more difficult (keep in mind this would be thousands of times the size of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption). But the real killer will be the fact that volcanic gasses and debris will essentially blot out the sun causing extreme global cooling for a few years. This, along with world-wide ashfall of varying thickness, will cause several years of failed crops and it is likely that a very large portion of the Earth's population will die. The effects will last for many years so it's not a matter of just stockpiling food and who knows what the societal effects of it will be. I don't think there's any way to prepare for that, so just hope it doesn't happen.

    To answer the question of what it looked like before the present activity, before the hot spot, it would have been like any of the other surrounding country. Immediately after the eruption, there would have been a massive pile of tephra, but this material erodes easily and so it would have worn down pretty quickly and other than occasionally being enveloped in glaciers during the various ice-ages it would have been pretty similar to how we see it at any point from 600,000 years ago to the present.

    (I can also give you a long boring post about why the forces that have caused the Grand Canyon to uplift are different if you want)
  • edited May 2009
    An electro magnetic pulse would definitely be the closest thing to what the book described. While they were doing intensive nuclear weapons testing during the 50's and 60's they discovered a "side effect" of them was the EMP that destroyed transistorized electronics. In the 70's and 80's when research focused on limited or tactical nuclear weapons, they toyed with the idea of detonating nuclear weapons at very high altitudes with the specific purpose of making an EMP.

    I always thought this would be an appealing stylized retro post-apocalyptic scenario because older cars with points-type ignition systems would indeed be immune. Domestic cars started regularly getting transistorized ignition systems in the mid 70's so most cars before that would still work (although after the late-50's the radios would be fried). Wouldn't that make a great scene with all the new cars frozen in place on the highways and all the old beaters still running around?

    I'm not really sure if this would be the same effect as a particularly bad solar flare or if such an effect was possible at all.

    As an interesting sideline to this, in the 80's when a Soviet pilot defected with the latest Mig fighter jet, the engineers who took it apart were amazed to find that all the navigation and targeting computers were made with bulky vacuum tubes. At first, they just chalked it up to commie design that was far behind the curve, but eventually they realized that it had been intentionally built with that way in order to survive an EMP.
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